Nintendo has done it again.
You would think that after twenty years and just about as many Zelda titles that the series would have gotten stale. Everything that you think could have been done in a game which, at its core, hasn’t really changed since the start. Well, except for Zelda II but that is a whole other type of game. You would be wrong. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is the first new game for the Nintendo 3DS and the developers have utilized the system’s stereoscopic 3D effect to perfection. They have introduced a brand new game mechanic which adds a whole new level of challenge and complexity to dungeons and exploration, and is one which really gives the game a fresh feel.
The game is set in the world of Super Nintendo classic The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past so right away if you’ve played that game you’ve got a feel for the layout of Hyrule. In the past it was a time of great turmoil and the seven sages of legend sealed away the evil Ganon and restored peace to Hyrule. Many generations later, the kingdom is at peace under the benevolent rule of Princess Zelda.
On an errand to deliver a sword from the blacksmith’s shop, Link stumbles upon a magical attack. The sorcerer Yuga transforms a young girl — the descendant of a legendary sage — into a living painting, defeats Link, and vanishes. An oddly dressed stranger named Ravio returns Link to his home and gives him a mystical bracelet that will prove invaluable in the adventure to come. When Link stumbles into Yuga a second time she uses her powers to trap Link in a painting on the side of a wall, but the mysterious bracelet given to him by Ravio lets him push himself out of the wall, thus giving him a new power he will need to conquer the many dungeons and claim treasures hidden all round Hyrule.
Yuga also opens an interdimensional tear which pop up all over Hyrule and lead our hero to Lorule, a dark mirror of Hyrule. There he meets princess Hilda who tells him of the trapped seven sages and the need for him to rescue them and defeat Yuga before she can resurrect Ganon.
The new ability to push yourself onto the walls allows you to navigate to new areas, such as in the overworld to a cliff that is unreachable otherwise or in a dungeon to pass over an area where there is no bridge. Dungeons are very carefully laid out as well so that you can’t just skip over areas you aren’t supposed to reach. Torches, broken bricks and other obstacles will prevent you from skipping through the dungeon. Additionally the kingdom of Lorule is in a bad state, with many of the areas separated from one another by deep chasms. Finding the seven sages won’t be so simple as reaching the dungeons where they are hidden can’t be done directly. Instead Link must utilize the tears between worlds, first finding a tear in Hyrule and using it to travel to Lorule.
This new power is not unlimited however, nor are the other powers. When you meet Ravio you will almost instantly have access to all of the tools and weapons that you are familiar with. Bombs, bow, hookshot, boomerang and a host of others are available right from the start which allows you to explore the world pretty thoroughly. Though there are areas that aren’t accessible until certain in game events take place or you acquire upgraded versions of these weapons. You have a purple gauge on screen that will deplete when you use the items. Shooting an arrow, throwing the boomerang or placing a bomb will drop your power meter. When it depletes all the way you can’t use the item set. Don’t worry though as it does recharge fairly quickly.
One interesting twist in these weapons being available right from near the start is that you don’t “own” these items. Once Ravio sets up shop in Link’s home he will “rent” them to you for a modest amount of Rupies. The catch being that you have access to these items for as long as you want as long as you don’t fall in battle. If you do Ravio’s little friend will come by and take back all of your rented items, which you will then have to return and fork over more Rupies for. Eventually Ravio will let you buy items outright but the price doesn’t come cheap. 50 Rupies to rent or 800 Rupies to purchase. As long as you don’t die that often it’s not too bad.
The game also has many of the staple items you’ll remember including a net and bottles for catching fairies to replenish your health or holding numerous different potions and items. If you’ve ever played Zelda before this game will feel very familiar. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds makes good use of the touch screen for the map and inventory control. The entire map of Hyrule is displayed on the touch screen, which you can also zoom in to get a better view of any area on the map. You can touch and drag items from the items window and switch the item assigned to the X and/or Y buttons.
I don’t want to give away too much of the story and how the game unfolds but the game is beautifully crafted, well thought out and definitely a challenge!
Making full use of the 3DS hardware, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds also makes use of the 3DS’ StreetPass feature. You’ll be able to set up the function by speaking with an old man in Kakariko Village. Once you do you’ll be able to challenge other players in the form of “Shadow Links” when you tag someone via StreetPass. A sign will be posted in the village detailing where you can find them in the world. When you approach a Shadow Link, you can do battle with the character and reap rewards if you win. You’ll be able to select what items you want to have equipped in the X/Y button slots and will start off with full hearts before and after the battle.
This feature isn’t pivitol to anything but is a nice addition to the multitude of other mini-games you can find throughout Hyrule and Lorule. Baseball anyone?
Overall The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is an outstanding new addition to the franchise and is definitely worth playing for anyone who enjoys top-down adventure games. Not too hard but not too easy either. The game is well balanced and great fun to play!